Art-history scholars face narrowing publishing venues and rising permissions costs. But a report signals that help is on the way.





If scholarly publishing had an endangered-species list, the art monograph would be at the top. At least that's the perception of many art historians as they struggle to publish their work.

"Between dwindling sales and the soaring costs of acquiring illustrations and the permission to publish them, this segment of the publishing industry has become so severely compromised that the art monograph is now seriously endangered and could very well outpace the silvery minnow in its rush to extinction," writes Susan M. Bielstein in a recent call to arms, Permissions, A Survival Guide: Blunt Talk About Art as Intellectual Property, published this spring by the University of Chicago Press.

As the press's executive editor for art and architecture, Ms. Bielstein writes from the barricades. She knows that publishing art monographs costs a pretty penny. Art historians need high-quality illustrations to support their arguments, but in most cases, they must shell out for reproducible images, even of works in the public domain. And they, not their publishers, foot those bills. "It's not unusual for a scholar working on the Renaissance to pay $10,000 or $15,000 to illustrate a book that may sell only 400 or 500 copies," she says in an interview. Contemporary subjects still under copyright, and subject to an artist's or estate's whims, can prove to be an even costlier proposition.



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